HARLINGEN — After a five-month search, interim Police Chief Michael Kester will wear the department’s top badge.
Kester, a 29-year veteran, becomes the city’s first chief selected from within the department in about 15 years.
Selected out of a pool of 30 candidates, Kester replaces Jeffry Adickes, who retired in December after four years on the job.
“I’m very grateful to City Manager (Dan) Serna for believing in me,” Kester said yesterday. “It’s awesome. I’ve been here for 29 years, know the staff, the officers. It’s a great group of men and women who work hard for the city of Harlingen. I’m excited to lead the department to keep the community safe.”
Kester, who served as assistant chief under Adickes, said he is reviewing the department’s programs and equipment.
“We had some very good community initiatives under Chief Adickes and I’m looking to keep some of them going and expand on some,” Kester said, referring to Adickes’ programs including community policing. “We’re looking at how the department is staffed to serve the community and looking at equipment and vehicles.”
Kester was selected by a committee made up of Serna, Human Resources Director Efrain Fernandez, Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio, former Commissioner and Police Chief Danny Castillo, dentist Linda Burke, attorney John Guevara and architect Michael Allex.
Kester, who will earn a salary of about $130,000, becomes the city’s first police chief selected from within the department since Castillo was hired in 2002.
“We opened it up and got applicants from outside and inside the city and he rose to the top,” Serna said yesterday. “He’s very familiar with our city and I know he’ll lead the department well into the future.”
Serna described Kester as “a positive thinker” committed to providing his officers with the “training and tools needed to do the job of a police officer in this day and age.”
“Mike’s entire law enforcement career has been in Harlingen,” Serna stated in the city’s announcement yesterday afternoon. “He’s seen the growth of the city as well as the department so he knows the strengths and weaknesses which I believe will help him hit the road running.”
In 1990, Kester began his career as a patrolman before serving more than 16 years in leadership positions.
As assistant chief, he directed the daily operations of the department made up of 143 officers and 42 civilian personnel.
Kester holds a bachelor of science degree from Unity College in Maine and is a graduate of the Bill Blackwood Leadership Command College’s 53rd Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas.
Kester, who is certified as a Texas Commission on Law Enforcement police instructor, is also accredited as a firearms instructor, an accident investigator and field training officer.
He is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Texas Police Chief’s Association.
Kester, who had served as interim chief since Adickes retired in December, is expected to take the chief’s job May 15.
The city’s search for a new police chief included about two months’ of advertisements with the Texas Police Chiefs Association, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Association, Indeed.com and the Texas Municipal League as well as the city’s website.
The city advertised for a law enforcement veteran with “a focus on community-oriented policing.”
Requirements included a preferred bachelor’s degree along with five year’s experience and a Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Association advanced peace officer license.
Kester is expected to take over as chief about four months after Adickes retired.
A former assistant chief with the Austin Police Department, Adickes was hired in December 2014 at an annual salary of about $120,000.
Adickes replaced former Assistant Chief Stephen Mayer, who had served as interim chief for nearly a year.